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Survey of Harassment, Assault at Field Sites

More than 70 percent of female field scientists responding to a survey reported that they've experienced sexual harassment and about a quarter of women said they'd experienced sexual assault at field sites. Further, according to a new paper published in PLOS One this week, most of those women were trainees at the time.

Researchers led by Kate Clancy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign surveyed 666 field scientists, mostly biological anthropologists, about observed or direct experiences of sexual harassment or assault.

Additionally, much of the harassment directed at women came from their superiors; men, by contrast, were more likely to be harassed by their peers.

"We know empirically from past research that when it comes from up the hierarchy, when it comes from superiors, it has a potent effect of psychological well being, work productivity and motivation for work," coauthor Katie Hinde from Harvard University tells the Daily Beast. "This should be part of the conversation that's being had about why women aren't staying in STEM fields."

Clancy, Hinde, and their colleagues also found that few respondents knew of mechanisms to report such incidents, and those that did report them were largely not satisfied with the outcome.

The researchers tell the Daily Beast that a number of scientists and administrators have already gotten in touch with them for help in changing codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies for the field.

"What's been heartening, is the huge number of fellow scientists who are absolutely rooting for this research and want to see a change in how science is conducted," Clancy says.